MELBOURNE - Thailand’s top golfer Kiradech Aphibarnrat has given the country a huge boost by confirming his availability for the Melbourne World Cup of Golf in November.
The world No 37 was one of the first 28 players to be announced by tournament officials yesterday. It will be his fourth appearance in the event.
The biennial World Cup of Golf sees 56 players competing at Melbourne’s Metropolitan Golf Club from November 22 to 25 for US$7 million, the largest prizemoney in Australian golf.
Kiradech, an 11-time international winner, said: “It’s always a pleasure to wear the Thai flag and play on behalf of our country. To play for the national team is fantastic and it means a lot to me.
“I haven’t played at The Metropolitan previously but Melbourne courses are always fantastic. There are not many other events where you can partner with another Thai player, so it’ll also be good fun.
“I love playing in team events and you won’t feel lonely on the golf course. When you’re under pressure, you’ve got your partner to bring you up and when you succeed, you win together. Melbourne is also a great place to visit.”
In 2016, Kiradech tied for 19th with Thongchai Jaidee at six-under, and in 2013, he finished ninth with Prayad Marksaeng. In 2011, again with Thongchai, he tied for 13-under to finish T18.
His best performance by far came in the 2013 individual competition, where he opened with a 71 and then fired three consecutive 70s to tie for fifth, seven shots behind local winner Jason Day.
Thailand is no stranger to the World Cup of Golf, having first competed in its inaugural event, in Japan, in 1957, when brothers Manob Dabphavibul and Uthai Dabphavibul were in the Thai team.
This year marks Thailand’s 20th World Cup appearance, with its tie for fourth in 1969, when the Kingdom was represented in Singapore, by Sukree Onsham and Suchin Suwanapong, in Singapore, still the country’s best performance.
In 1975, Thailand hosted its lone World Cup of Golf, at the Navatanee Golf Course in Bangkok.
The committed player from each of the top 28 countries has until Thursday, September 20 (4am on September 21, Thailand time)) to choose his partner. The field of 56 players will also be finalised at the same time.
The 72-hole stroke play team format features four-ball (best ball) in the first and third rounds and foursomes (alternate shot) play in the second and final rounds.
In 2016, the last time the World Cup was played, Danes Søren Kjeldsen and Thorbjørn Olesen shot a final-round 66 in foursomes at Kingston Heath in Melbourne to win Denmark’s first title by four strokes over the United States, China and France.
Thailand is one of six Asian countries to have qualified for this year’s eventn November: the five others are South Korea, China, India, Chinese Taipei and Japan.
Qualification is based on the rankings of each country’s top two men – but the higher-ranked player was required to confirm his participation by yesterday.
If the top-ranked player elects not to commit – or fails to do so – the option will be passed to the next highest-ranked player from that country based on the Official World Golf Ranking.
In Thailand’s case, Kiradech is easily the country’s top player, followed by Jazz Janewattananond (world 140). If Kiradech had not confirmed his involvement Thailand would almost certainly have dropped out of qualification based on Janewattananond then becoming Thailand’s top player.
Several other countries had been placed on standby for this eventuality, which was rendered irrelevant with Kiradech’s announcement yesterday.
The ISPS HANDA Melbourne World Cup of Golf is one of five tournaments co-sanctioned by the International Federation of PGA Tours, joining the four events in the World Golf Championships series as tournaments which the Federation oversees.
The International Federation of PGA Tours is an organisation made up of all Tours from across the globe including the PGA TOUR, European Tour, Japan Golf Tour, the ISPS HANDA PGA of Australasia, the Asian Tour and Sunshine Tour (South Africa PGA Tour).